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Relief, crushing grief: Woman denied Malta abortion treated in Spain

A pregnant American woman who suffered heavy bleeding while on holiday on Malta but was denied an abortion has flown to Spain where she is “out of harm’s way”, her partner said Friday.

Andrea Prudente, 38, and Jay Weeldreyer, 45, were told their baby had no chance of surviving, but doctors refused to intervene despite her fear of deadly infection due to Malta’s total ban on terminations.

“Medical evacuation got us safely to Spain where Andrea is out of harm’s way and finally receiving the medical care and treatment denied her in Malta,” Weeldreyer said in a text message to AFP.

Asked how they were feeling, he said: “Relief. And the sudden, smashing waves of grief at losing our little girl.

“We’ve been so consumed with fear and intense focus on Andrea’s safety, that now she’s finally out of harm’s way, there are cascades of mixed emotions that just come in waves.”

In an interview by telephone on Wednesday with AFP, he had condemned the “callous” and “cruel” treatment of Prudente, after she was rushed to hospital during a “babymoon” holiday to the Mediterranean island.

She had suffered heavy bleeding in her 16th week of pregnancy and later her waters broke, with an ultrasound showing a partially detached placenta, he said.

An ultrasound two days later showed no amniotic fluid left, meaning the foetus had “no chance of survival”, according to a doctor with campaign group Doctors for Choice, which was involved with the case.

But doctors had refused to intervene, waiting for Prudente to miscarry naturally, for the baby’s heartbeat to stop or “for her to have a life-threating infection” that would spur them to act, Weeldreyer had explained.

He feared she would not survive if she developed sepsis, saying they were “playing chicken with the death of the mother”.

The couple’s lawyer, Lara Dimitrijevic, posted on social media that Prudente was “weak and exhausted, relieved and grieving”.

The case made headlines around the world as evidence of the intransigence of the law in Malta, the only country in the European Union to have a total ban on abortion.

Women who have abortions face a maximum of three years in prison, while doctors who help them face up to four years, campaigners say.

Doctors for Choice welcomed the fact that Prudente had been able to finally receive help in Spain, saying she was given abortion pills.

But it said many Maltese women did not have that option.

“Are we really prioritising women’s lives, or are we treating them merely as incubators? We can do much better than this as a country,” it said.